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“Mayor Bowser Announces New Legislation to Support Safe and Effective Policing, Address Retail Theft and Loitering Around Open-Air Drug Markets”

From the Mayor’s Office:

“Today, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the Addressing Crime Trends Now Act (ACT Now), new legislation that will address recent public safety challenges by giving law enforcement more tools to hold criminals accountable and keep neighborhoods safe. By adding more tools while also amending provisions of the Comprehensive Policing and Justice Amendment Act, the legislation will also help create an environment that better supports communities and victims as well as the Metropolitan Police Department’s (MPD) ability to hire and retain highly qualified officers.

“This legislation reflects what our community is telling us: they want appropriate accountability for those who choose to commit crimes and inflict fear in our neighborhoods,” said Mayor Bowser. “At a time when we’re dealing with historically low staffing levels at MPD, we’re making common-sense changes that recognize the day-to-day operational challenges our officers experience and that will better support safe and effective policing.”

The legislation Mayor Bowser is sending to the DC Council includes commonsense policies that will support MPD’s ability to address recent crime trends by:

Limiting loitering by reinstating the ability of the MPD Chief to declare drug-free zones for 120 hours to prohibit people from congregating on public space for the purchase, sale, or use of illegal drugs. The establishment of temporary drug free zones can interrupt this activity and allow neighborhoods to clean up and reclaim public space.
Creating criminal penalties for organized retail theft, including establishing a new crime for “directing organized retail theft.”
Reinstating the law that makes it unlawful to wear a mask for the purpose of committing criminal acts, intimidating and threatening other people, or causing fear.

The proposed legislation also clarifies and updates several existing policies to better align policies with the day-to-day realities of safe and effective policing. While MPD continues to be a leader in fair and constitutional policing and continuously works to build community-trust, the department is currently dealing with consequences of the Comprehensive Policing and Justice Amendment Act that have made it more difficult for police to keep the community safe and hold criminals accountable for their actions. The new legislation clarifies the distinction between a serious use of force and incidental contact with the neck, ensures officers can review their body-worn camera footage prior to writing their initial police report in certain circumstances, makes permanent clarification of vehicular pursuit, and defines what information will be posted publicly related to officer discipline and more.

“This legislation is critical for the public safety of the District of Columbia,” Acting Chief Pamela Smith said. “The legislation is responsive to what we are hearing from community and takes important steps forward in clarifying existing legislative language to ensure our officers are able to fully perform their duties.”

Mayor Bowser is also calling on Council to move forward with the commonsense policy proposals from her Safer Stronger Amendment Act, which was introduced in May 2023. The Safer Stronger legislation provides additional tools across the District’s public safety ecosystem to combat crime, including crime against some of the most vulnerable in our city; increase systemic accountability and transparency; consider the community in critical criminal justice processes; and uplift the voices and experiences of victims across all parts of a case.

Safer Stronger 2.0 removes the requirement that a youth possess a firearm for the Court to determine if secure detention is appropriate for youth who commit a crime of violence or dangerous crime and restores the ability of the Court to consider whether youth charged with a crime of violence or dangerous crime are themselves at significant risk of harm such that detention is appropriate. Two recent homicides of DC youth that were in the juvenile justice system under Court supervision reinforces the urgent need to provide the Courts the ability to determine if pretrial secure detention is a safer alternative for youth than in-community electronic monitoring.”

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